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How To Recycle A Computer or Laptop

A laptop

Image Credit: NordWood Themes

Do you have an unused computer, laptop, monitor or tablet that you would like to get rid of?

Like any piece of electrical equipment, your computer contains many valuable and recyclable materials. So ensuring that these useful resources do not go to landfill is very important.

How to recycle a computer or laptop

STOP! Before You Get Rid Of Your Computer Do This

There are lots of ways to dispose of unwanted computer equipment, but before you do that, it is very important that you make sure to remove any personal information that you may have saved on the hard disk of your computer.

This could be personal photos, letters, documents and passwords which are memorised in your browser.

Many computer disposal businesses offer free data destruction, however it is a good idea to take responsibility for your own data and ensure that you have taken all possible steps to remove personal information from your computer. Just deleting files is not enough, they can still be recovered so you will need to take further actions to be totally secure.

If your computer is in working order and could be used by someone else:-

If your computer is not working you can destroy any personal information by removing the hard drive and destroying it.

This can be done in several ways which include scratching the disc, drilling holes in it or smashing it (carefully!) with a hammer.

Here is an article from Scientific American about how to destroy a hard drive so completely even the police can't retrieve your data.

Macbook and coffee cup

Image Credit: Rachel Moenning

If Your Computer Is Working

Once you have wiped all your personal data, you can go ahead and dispose of your computer in one of these ways.

  1. Sell It
  2. You can sell a working computer through many routes, for example on eBay Facebook Marketplace or local selling groups.

    If your computer is very old there are many collectors and enthusiasts who love to get computing equipment from the 1980s and 1990s up and working again so that they can play retro games and relive their childhoods.

  3. Give It Away
  4. Give it away to friends or family or via a local Buy Nothing group.

  5. Charity Shops
  6. Larger charity shops may be able to accept computers for resale, but before donation confirm that they are able to accept electrical items. The items will need to be tested before sale, and not all shops have staff that can carry out these safety checks.

  7. Specialist IT Charities
  8. The lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic really brought home the issue of "digital poverty" in the UK. As schools closed down and lessons went online, thousands of children struggled without suitable technology.

    Many did not have enough devices in their household for all children to join online lessons at the same time, especially if parents were also working from home. For some pupils, the devices that they had were simply too old to run the software required to attend online lessons or do the school work.

    Schools may be back to normal, but the reliance on computer-based homework was already on the increase long before the pandemic struck, and a lack of access to technology only helps to widen the educational gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots".

    Several organisations exist that specialise in refurbishing and distributing computer equipment to help families and individuals to get the computer equipment and avoid digital exclusion.

Desktop Computer

Image Credit: Daniel Korpai

Where to Donate Your Old Computer

If you cannot find a local organisation that accepts computer equipment, here are some places where the you can donate any personal computing equipment for reuse or recycling.

Many of these organisations will refurbish them and give them to disadvantaged people either in the UK or abroad.

Recycling Your Old Computer

If your computer is not working at all it can be recycled just like any other piece of electrical equipment.

Computers can be left at your household recycling centre for recycling along with any other electrical equipment that you need to dispose of. Depending on the size of the equipment, you may be able to leave it for collection with your local household recycling.

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